Friday 23 April 2010

One Role, 700 Applicants: How Can You Stand Out And How Can I Not Shoot Myself?

Dear Julie,

My Name is Blah. I am blah. I was lucky enough to train with the Blah Blah. I was also cast in Blah and flown to Blah because they think I am a talented Blah. I won the Blah of Blah in Blah. Blah Blah Blah.

Yours Sincerely,

First of all: my name is not Julie. I am male. That was your first mistake. 40% of cover letters I receive that have names on them are not names that belong to me. If you're going to address me by name, use my name. Or you can say 'Dear Sir/Madam,' but if you do - I won't carry on reading.

If you have emailed me for every role I've cast for the past seven years - try not to send me the same covering letter. The one that says "I was recently invited to visit the Hollywood elite" didn't sound real seven years ago, it still doesn't now. Vary things up a bit.

Visiting my website is helpful. Knowing the name of a film I've done is helpful. Anything that remotely shows you care is helpful. Say, for example, you wanted to write for the Kid In The Front Row blog; saying "I love Billy Wilder too, he is such an inspiration!" is going to interest me more than "Dear Sir/Madam, I have a lot of writing experience and I feel I am enthusiastic and able to bring expertise to your blog." Same goes for casting; I don't want to cast a robot, I want to cast a human being; so I give preference to those who are show signs of being one.

Tell me what you're passionate about. Tell me why you love movies. Tell me why you're interested in this movie. "I do not normally do low-budget work, but yours could be interesting" is not particularly endearing, "You are making a film about pigeons and I LOVE pigeons" is more interesting. Unless the film isn't about pigeons, in which case you'd look weird.

If you were that woman across the road looking at sunglasses, partially out of shot and partially blocked in the frame by an Asian man in the eleventh scene in the film 'Phone Booth,' don't put that on your Resume. You were an extra. A cellphone shot of you and Colin Farrell in the background isn't convincing of anything, either.

It's great that you are enthusiastic, hard-working and reliable. So is everyone. Maybe find some different words. I want to know you can do different things on set, too. So maybe instead of those things; maybe you are industrious, courageous, and spontaneous. Or maybe you are controlled, decisive, and determined. Or maybe you are excited by ideas, drawn to originality and inspired by collaboration. Whatever it is that you really are, figure it out and put it in your cover letter. But take out enthusiastic. Everyone says they are enthusiastic.

Yes- headshots do matter and often I do make judgements made solely on them. That's the way it is. You're playing a character. If I'm casting a black woman called Renee, I have little use for a white girl called Sally. That's just how it is. If I want someone pretty, and you're not, that's how it is. If I want someone ugly, and you're not, that's the way it is. It's not personal. But by all means - let me know you have different headshots and let me know you have a lot of different styles/images/etc.

If I am casting a drug dealer; don't send me a headshot of you smiling and looking like Meg Ryan in a rom-com. If I am casting a rom-com, don't send me a headshot that looks like you're investigating a murder.

Don't send me fourteen emails. Really: DO NOT DO THAT. DO NOT EMAIL EVERY DAY. DO NOT DO THAT.

However, four days after you've applied; DO write back to say how excited you were by the project and how you're still really interested. The human mind forgets, and a gentle reminder always helps. I once hired a composer for a film because he wrote me a wonderful, personal second email.

Be yourself. Write something true. Be a human.

I didn't get it?

No. They said you 'Weren't believable as a human being.'
So, you can work on that.

Okay, what else?

Um, the off-Broadway play people said 'You were
pretty but dumb'.


Oh no wait, I'm sorry, that's 'pretty dumb.'

Care to share?


  1. Great article thanks for writing for us actors!!

  2. Very entertaining and educational at the same time, great post! :)